THE rest of the UK and Europe should follow Scotland’s example by introducing minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol, a health expert has said.

Professor Jurgen Rehm, an adviser to the World Health Organisation (WHO), suggested people should drink no more than one unit of alcohol per day.

Speaking at a joint meeting on alcohol and health being held in Edinburgh, led by the WHO and the Alcohol Policy Network in Europe, Rehm said minimum pricing is serious “ammunition” in the fight against alcohol-related harm and lamented relatively low levels of use across Europe.

The call came amid predictions MUP will have a “significant impact” on health outcomes in Scotland.

The Scottish Government policy to set a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol finally came into force in May after years of delays due to a legal challenge.

It was estimated the move could save around 392 lives in its first five years in Scotland where, on average, there were 22 alcohol-specific deaths every week and 697 hospital admissions.

Figures presented at the Edinburgh meeting show the continent continues to have the highest levels of alcohol consumption in the world. Each day, around 800 people in the EU, Norway and Switzerland die from alcohol-attributable causes and there have been “no significant changes” in consumption levels since 2010.

Rehm, a senior director at the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada, pointed to “huge problems” with drinking among young people in Europe, particularly binge-drinking. He said: “The big ammunition is using price policy, taxation and things like that.”

Asked about MUP in Scotland, Rehm told reporters: “Very clearly, minimum unit pricing is going to have a significant impact.”

Rehm pointed to the “pretty great success” of similar pricing restrictions in countries such as Russia, saying it reduces consumption among binge drinkers and those with a dependency on alcohol. Drink-related accidents, injuries, violence and public disorder will also go down with increases of minimum pricing, he said.

Asked whether he would like to see every country in Europe introduce that policy, he said: “Obviously from a public health perspective, yes, we would like not only minimum pricing policies, we would like minimum pricing policies which are relatively high.”

Dr Joao Breda, head of the WHO European Office for Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, said MUP is a policy that “protects the vulnerable”.

Responding to the comments, Dr Eric Carlin, director of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) said it “strongly supported the UK guidance of drinking no more than 14 units per week, but added: “It is true to say that no level of alcohol is risk free.”